Of the planet’s 27 most influential designers, one is a Trojan dean.
According to BusinessWeek, Qingyun Ma, dean of the USC School of Architecture, joins Apple design guru Jonathan Ive and spaceplane designer Burt Rutan as one of “the 27 most influential designers making an impact on business today.”
Ma has long been regarded among the most exciting Chinese architects to emerge on the contemporary scene. In 1996, he founded MADA s.p.a.m., encompassing strategy, planning, architecture and media, and came to international attention as coordinator of Rem Koolhaas’ first Harvard Project on Cities.
Named along with Ma are two other internationally recognized architects: Pritzker Prize winners Zaha Hadid of Iraq and Koolhaas of the Netherlands. Also among the 27 recognized by BusinessWeek are influential urban designers Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar from New York, along with hotel interior and product designer Philippe Starck and Shigeru Miyamoto, the so-called “father of modern video games.”
“What inspires me most,” Ma said, “is the possibility for life-altering architecture. Truly, architectural design that — because of this — people actually live their lives differently.”
Ma has been able to put that inspiration to practice many times — as planning expert and presenter to the International Olympic Committee for the 2008 Beijing Games and as city development consultant for the Chinese cities of Qingpu and Haikou. His dramatic designs, such as that for the Television Broadcasting and Movie Center in his hometown of Xi’an, are among the reasons MADA s.p.a.m. — with offices in major Chinese cities and Los Angeles — is generally regarded as the most visible Chinese practice internationally.
And yet despite having designed such groundbreaking icons as Qingpu Community Island in Shanghai, Ma’s favorite design is the small residential house he built for his father in 2003.
“Father’s house was the smallest building I’ve ever built,” Ma said, “but it really contains all of my design principles and sensitivity to materials. My father at first disliked it; he said he wasn’t used to it. In a strange way, that pleased me dramatically. He had to learn about me by living in the house, and I had to learn about him by listening to his misgivings.”
Since joining USC in 2007, Ma has focused the school on his message of “global culture, creative future” — launching the USC American Academy in China and spearheading new initiatives in digital design and practice.
“Young designers,” Ma said, “should treat design as an organizing principle in their lives: Adapt their lives to imagination in design and morph their designs around their imaginative life.”